Health and Wellness for Musicians
The Department of Music, as required by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), is obligated to inform students and faculty of health and safety issues, hazards, and procedures inherent in music practice, performance, teaching, and listening—in general and in regard to various specializations.
With thanks to NASM and the Performing Arts Medicine Association, the Department of Music at William Paterson University wishes to remind you that Health and safety depend in large part on the personal decisions of informed individuals. The University has health and safety responsibilities, but fulfillment of these responsibilities can and will not ensure any specific individual’s health and safety. Too many factors beyond any institution’s control are involved. Individuals have a critically important role and each is personally responsible for avoiding risk and preventing injuries to themselves before, during, and after study or employment at any institution. Neither the advisory information provided here on healthy practices for musicians, nor any institutional actions taken under their influence or independently can alter or cancel any individual’s personal responsibility, or in any way shift personal responsibility for the results of any individual’s personal decisions in any instance or over time to any institution, or to NASM, or to PAMA.
Practicing and performing music can lead to injuries and other medical problems. According to a report entitled Health Promotion in Schools of Music, these issues tend to fall into four categories: Hearing health, vocal health, neuromuscloskeletal health and mental health. Below are a few resources to provide information in each area.
Perhaps the most obvious danger to performing musicians is damage to their hearing. Click here for an introductory discussion of hearing health by the National Association of Schools of Music and the Performing Arts Medicine Association.
While vocal health is critical for singers, any musician that uses his or her voice in the practice of their work is at risk for vocal damage. Whether or not you teach, you should keep in mind these top 5 vocal health considerations for maintaining vocal health for PK-12 Teachers (from the 2004 Conference, ["Health Promotion in Schools of Music"(http://www.unt.edu/hpsm/vocalpostconfreport.htm))
- Know implications of vocal anatomy and vocal capability development for curriculum
- Develop meta, proprioceptive, and auditory knowledge of own voice including efficiency and conditioning
- Demonstrate ability to model appropriately for speech, singing, and vocal health
- Recognize problematic vocal behaviors early in self and students and seek help when needed
- Engage children and adolescents in appropriate vocal activities, techniques, and repertoire for long-term vocal and musical expressiveness
Other sites that may be useful for vocal health:
- Choral Net “Vocal Health”
- Singers Resource “Vocal Health”
- Voice Academy from the University of Iowa
- National Center for Voice and Speech
- 10 articles relating to various issues of vocal health
- Ten Tips for a Healthy Voice
- Dr. Jahn’s advice concerning allergies and singing
Every musical instrument, including the voice, puts certain kinds of strain on the neuro- and musculoskeletal systems. As a musician, therefore, you should be aware that increases in practice or performance time as well as physical or mental stress may put you at risk. Make sure you know what to do to prevent injuries, and learn to recognize symptoms of stress or damage.
Useful sites for Neuromusculoskeletal health:
- Report from Health Promotion in Schools of Music, 2004
- “Inspiration of Breath” by Jean McClelland
- The Alexander Technique
- Resources for overuse injuries
According to the authors of the Mental Health Report from the 2004 Conference “Health Promotion in Schools of Music,” there are three types of mental wellness to be particularly aware of during your college and professional days: intra-personal (avoiding burnout, balancing stress), inter-personal wellness (healthy relationships and communication) and music wellness (balancing diverse musical and educational standards and expectations).
The Counseling Health and Wellness Center at William Paterson University offers is free for matriculated students and offers many services. In particular, they frequently see students who have the following concerns: academic stress, time management, issues with self-esteem/self-doubt, difficulties with friends or family, unhappiness and depression, anxiety, harmful habits, eating-related problems, assertiveness and conflict resolution, anger management, communication in relationships, and alcohol or drug-related problems.
General information about musician health
- The book The Musician’s Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness covers musicians’ wellness in a variety of ways.
- Links to articles and websites devoted to Musicians’ health.
- Performing Arts Medicine Association
- Journal: Medical Problems of Performing Artists
- Jean McClelland, frequent WPU clinician